Light on Nature

What is the impact of artificial light at night on our ecosystem?
Lightpost with red light in nature

We produce more and more light at night. Virtually everybody in Europe or the US lives in a light polluted place: all areas where artificial light always exceeds the light of the moon and the stars. These areas expand with about two percent per year, while already light polluted areas become even brighter at night.

Light at night has a profound impact on wildlife. The Netherlands Institute of Ecology teams up with a number of organizations to investigate this impact in the Light on Nature and Light on Landscape project. This project includes a large study for which natural, previously dark area is experimently illuminated at different locations in the Netherlands. Because nowadays we can adapt the colour spectrum of light, we test the impact on plants and animals of white, green and red light. This includes both short- and long term effects. Testing long-term effects is important as lighting is never installed for just a few nights. We monitor the impact of light on as many species groups possible: plants, moths, bats, mice, mustelis and otehr mammal species, birds and amphibians.

  • Exprimental gren lightning
    Experimental green lightning with more blue and less red
  • Experimental white lightning
    Experimental white lightning



Presentatie 21 januari 2019, Gemeente Amsterdam, effecten van licht en lichtkleur op vleermuizen


Scientific publications

Spoelstra, K., Ramakers, J. J. C., Dis, N. E. van, Visser, M. E. No effect of artificial light of different colors on commuting Daubenton’s bats (Myotis daubentonii) in a choice experiment. Journal of Experimental Zoology A (2018) download

Welbers, A. A. M. H. et al. Artificial Light at Night Reduces Daily Energy Expenditure in Breeding Great Tits (Parus major). Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 5, (2017). download

Spoelstra, K. et al. Response of bats to light with different spectra: light-shy and agile bat presence is affected by white and green, but not red light. Proc. R. Soc. B 284, 20170075 (2017). download / download SI

Ouyang, J. Q. et al. What type of rigorous experiments are needed to investigate the impact of artificial light at night on individuals and populations? Glob Change Biol n/a-n/a (2017). doi:10.1111/gcb.13894 not available yet

Ouyang, J. Q. et al. Restless roosts: Light pollution affects behavior, sleep, and physiology in a free-living songbird. Glob Change Biol n/a-n/a (2017). doi:10.1111/gcb.13756 vraag aan

Jong, M. de, Caro, S. P., Gienapp, P., Spoelstra, K. & Visser, M. E. Early Birds by Light at Night: Effects of Light Color and Intensity on Daily Activity Patterns in Blue Tits. Journal of Biological Rhythms 0, 0748730417719168 (2017). vraag aan

Langevelde, F. van, Grunsven, R. H. A. van, Veenendaal, E. M. & Fijen, T. P. M. Artificial night lighting inhibits feeding in moths. Biology Letters 13, 20160874 (2017). download

Da Silva, A. et al. Experimental illumination of a forest: no effects of lights of different colours on the onset of the dawn chorus in songbirds. Royal Society Open Science 4, 160638 (2017). download

Van Grunsven, R. H. A. van, Creemers, R., Joosten, K., Donners, M. & Veenendaal, E. M. Behaviour of migrating toads under artificial lights differs from other phases of their life cycle. Amphibia-Reptilia (2016). doi:10.1163/15685381-00003081 not available yet

van Grunsven R, Joosten K, Creemers R (2016) Effect straatverlichting op paddentrek. Tijdschrift RAVON 58(17) 56-58 download PDF

Jong, M. de. Illuminating a bird’s world: effects of artificial light at night on avian ecology. (2016). download

de Jong, M., Ouyang, J. Q., van Grunsven, R. H. A., Visser, M. E. & Spoelstra, K. Do Wild Great Tits Avoid Exposure to Light at Night? PLOS ONE 11, e0157357 (2016). download

de Jong, M. et al. Dose-dependent responses of avian daily rhythms to artificial light at night. Physiology & Behavior 155, 172–179 (2016). download / download SI

van Geffen, K. G. et al. Artificial light at night inhibits mating in a Geometrid moth. Insect Conservation and Diversity 8, 282–287 (2015). download

Van Geffen, K. G. et al. Artificial night lighting disrupts sex pheromone in a noctuid moth: Moth sex pheromone in illuminated nights. Ecological Entomology 40, 401–408 (2015). not avaliable yet

Swaddle, J. P. et al. A framework to assess evolutionary responses to anthropogenic light and sound. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 30, 550–560 (2015). download

Spoelstra, K. et al. Experimental illumination of natural habitat—an experimental set-up to assess the direct and indirect ecological consequences of artificial light of different spectral composition. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences 370, 20140129 (2015). download / download SI

Ouyang, J. Q. et al. Stressful colours: corticosterone concentrations in a free-living songbird vary with the spectral composition of experimental illumination. Biology Letters 11, 20150517 (2015). download

Geffen, K. G. van. Moths in illuminated nights : articificial night effects on moth ecology. (Wageningen University, 2015). download

de Jong, M. et al. Effects of nocturnal illumination on life-history decisions and fitness in two wild songbird species. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences 370, 20140128 (2015). download / download SI

van Grunsven, R. H. A., Lham, D., van Geffen, K. G. & Veenendaal, E. M. Range of attraction of a 6-W moth light trap. Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata 152, 87–90 (2014). not available yet

van Grunsven, R. H. A. et al. Spectral composition of light sources and insect phototaxis, with an evaluation of existing spectral response models. Journal of Insect Conservation 18, 225–231 (2014). download

van Geffen, K. G., van Grunsven, R. H. A., van Ruijven, J., Berendse, F. & Veenendaal, E. M. Artificial light at night causes diapause inhibition and sex-specific life history changes in a moth. Ecology and Evolution n/a-n/a (2014). doi:10.1002/ece3.1090 download

Spoelstra, K. & Visser, M. E. The impact of artificial light on avian ecology. in Avian Urban Ecology: Behavioural and Physiological Adaptations 21 (2013). view

Titulaer, M., Spoelstra, K., Lange, C. Y. M. J. G. & Visser, M. E. Activity Patterns during Food Provisioning Are Affected by Artificial Light in Free Living Great Tits (Parus major). PLoS ONE 7, e37377 (2012). download